How do you choose a birthing technique?

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{Day 26} Happiness Is…Helping to welcome a beautiful baby into the world! I am currently five months pregnant, and people keep asking me which birthing technique I’ll be using. One friend used mindfulness, another swears by Hypnobirthing, another by Bradley, and then there’s the classic Lamaze. I’m sure there are even more, but I already feel overwhelmed by these few. How are you supposed to know which one will work for you when you’ve never been through labor or birth before? How did you choose which technique you would use? — Hannah

Did you implement a birthing technique when you gave birth? How did you decide what to use?

Comments on How do you choose a birthing technique?

  1. Are birthing techniques employed mainly for pain control? I’m almost completely unfamiliar with the concept of a “birthing technique.” If you had asked me yesterday what my birthing technique was, I would’ve said , “Um, pushing?” I’m eager to hear the feedback on this post. Thanks for addressing this question!

  2. I looked into a lot of birth techniques and classes, but ultimately didn’t use any of them (at least not in any formal way). I prepared for my birth by reading A LOT and feeling informed about positions for pain management. I’m an introverted person, and–for me–I think that a class would have been intimidating. I also felt overwhelmed by all the different methods and felt like the most important thing was being informed and confident.

    • This was pretty much my technique: reading a lot and talking to other mothers I know. (I will confess, I did almost psyche myself out with this. As with any research, I had to make myself stop finally.) The breathing we learned in prepared childbirth class was helpful for me, but that was the most formal thing I used. Breathing, the bathtub, and a supportive partner and birth team got me through great. 🙂

  3. I am taking a Bradley method class right now, but it’s more relaxed that the true Bradley method. Our teacher involves some techniques from Hypnobirthing, etc. as well. I like that I’m getting more options for how to deal with pain. Since this is my first child, I’m not sure which ways will work for me, but being prepared for a variety of things makes me feel better.

  4. I took an unmedicated birthing course that was primarily Bradley based. I also read a hyponobirthing book. They have a lot of similar concepts, just some different relaxation exercises. The main point is to just learn to help your body relax, and ride through contractions. I really don’t know much about Lamaze, but honestly what I’ve heard is that it’s not the most helpful path with it’s breathing techniques and etc. I think the best way to do it is just read a few books and see what appeals to you, then invest in a class. 🙂 Good luck in whatever you decide!

    • We also took a Bradley class and what was most helpful from the class was the teacher’s insistence on practicing relaxation techniques. I used a cd to practice, with some visualizations and it completely worked for me. I lost track of a lot of time during labor while listening to that cd and focusing on what I had practiced

  5. I did quite a bit of reading on different topics (yay interwebs) but then ultimately didn’t take a class, and just got through it on my own. I didn’t have a ton of anxiety about birth — I’m a medical person who doesn’t have fear of hospitals and had been present at several births to know the range of what was normal and usual, and I didn’t really have time for a formal class due to my work schedule.

    You can also talk to your friends, especially friends who appear to approach life in a similar fashion that you do. People can get pretty dogmatic about this stuff, and it can be difficult to sort through everyone’s idea of the truth. Honestly, there are a million ways to have a successful birth, and maybe making a list of a few things that are your most important goals may direct you in a certain way (do you want to try and avoid intervention? Do you want to feel like your a team with the person who’s going to be there with you? Do you want to have minimal physical pain?)

  6. I think talking with a few women who have used different techniques is a start, you can get a feel for whether you think what they’re preaching might work for you. Also, visualize your “ideal” birth: who is present? Is there lots of medical equipment around? Are you on land, in water, in a bed? If in a bed, is it a hospital bed or a more home-like bed? Envisioning your ideal will at least give you an idea of whether your birth vision involves meds, equipment, and procedure, or a more go-with-the-flow low intervention, hippy-dippy (I use this in an endearing way) experience. Then you can start narrowing things down.

    Also think about how open you are to things like hypnosis, visualization, etc. regarding non-birth experiences. If you’re open to those sorts of things already, they may work for you as you labor and birth your baby. If you’re a cynic, however, you can’t force them on yourself just because you’re having a baby and someone tells you it worked great for them.

    It’s just such an individual process. No one can tell you what will be best for you and your baby/partner/birth team.

    I used Hypnobabies and it worked great for me, for the record. It helped me during my pregnancy and my labor, and I even used it during my emergency c-section (I was “supposed” to birth naturally, in the water… best laid plans…)

    Also, something I REALLY recommend now that I’ve “been there, done that” is – no matter how much you want to avoid one – do your research on what to expect during inductions and a c-section, and what to expect after a c-section. Being informed does not mean being fearful, it just means being prepared.

    Congrats and best of luck!

    • Exactly! My son was born via emergency C-section and I was SO thankful that I had read up on C-sections (he was also breech right up until a couple weeks before his delivery, so I was doing that research anyway …). I’m plus size, so reading up on how to properly care for my incision and what to expect made me feel so much better when it came time to sign the dotted line that gave the docs permission to perform the surgery.

      Knowledge is power! 🙂

  7. There are definitely lots of techniques, and I think you need to just do some research and see which one feels right for you. We didn’t look into any technique but rather took a Childbirth Class which went over basic breathing and a few light pain management techniques but was mostly an overview of what is actually happening during birth. I *highly* recommend going to something like this…I thought I got the gist but man, when they actually show you what 10 centimeters actually looks like it gives you a whole new idea!

    And it MUST be said…it’s great to look into techniques and figure out how you would like things to go, but as I’m sure you’ve heard ANYTHING can happen during labor. What you were *certain* you’d want suddenly sounds terrible, or you suddenly your highest priorities don’t matter as much anymore. Try to keep your birth plan loose and go with what is happening in the moment.

    Good luck!

    • Amen to this! It’s a GREAT thing to do research beforehand, to inform yourself about ‘official’ techniques, ways to go with the pain etc. But personally, my most important decision about birthing technique was “letting go”. In every possible way. Letting go of the pain, because it’s a GOOD pain. Letting go about being a total prude about my lady parts and vocalizing: there’s nothing wrong with being all bare to the bones and moaning like a walrus in heat. It’s birth! It’s primal and therefore beautiful and real! Also: letting go of my body, because your body can only do so much and if it doesn’t do what you want it to do… that’s OK, we’re fortunate to live in a society with excellent doula’s, midwives, gyneacologists, you name it. That baby is coming out one way or another and every way is ‘good’ if it gets you your baby healthy and well.

  8. I’m wondering the same thing about how to choose a technique. Bradley sounds great, especially because it’s a way to get my husband involved. However, the classes in my area (OKC) are priced at around $300 and are located in someone’s house. I find that absolutely outrageous and would rather that money go toward a doula. I received a hand-me-down Hypnobirthing CD set which I’m really excited about, but I’m worried that my partner won’t feel involved enough. I’ve thought about taking the hospital birthing class to supplement but I’m not sure how it’ll apply since I’m having a Certified Nurse Midwife birth in the hospital, instead of an OB. It just feels like there’s not a good, comprehensive, but affordable option. 🙁

    • From what I can tell with hypnobirthing so far (3 classes in), the role of the birth partner is heavily emphasized, but it’s also up to the couple. In some of the videos, the partner has helped put the birthing woman into trance state and was actively involved in the relaxation. In others, the birthmother managed her own relaxation and told the partner to be quiet. My husband and I are very much working on our strategies as a team, because I respond well to vocal relaxation cues. I don’t know how much that would come across in the CD, though.
      Our cost for the whole course was between $250 and $300 and includes the books and CDs. No, it’s not really that inexpensive, and I agree that’s a shame.

    • Liz, you are in OKC? I’m in Norman and delivered at OU Children’s Hospital with a midwife. Is that where you will be delivering? My husband and I read a Bradley book together and practiced the exercises together in the book each night – we also opted not to pay the money for the class and the book was enough for us. Also, we found that everyone at OU Children’s knew lots about natural childbirth and different pain management techniques – we had lots of great support and ideas from the nurses and midwives during our son’s birth, and my husband was totally involved in all of it.

    • Regarding the hospital birthing class, I would directly ask your midwife whether it would be a worthwhile course or not. I was hesitant to sign up for the local mainstream hospital course, thinking it might not apply to me since I too am being delivered by a CNM in the hospital. However, I found that my midwife clinic actually listed it as one of their recommended courses, and that was enough to make me go ahead and sign up.

      I, too, can’t afford the Bradley classes… so expensive in my area. Luckily, the classes I signed up for are covered by Medicaid, but I wish I could have my choice. It’s a bummer. :/

  9. I took a hypnobirthing course, and found it really useful. Through early labour (which lasted days for me), I was able to relax enough to go see the Pixies the night before I gave birth. I started to go into an active labour pattern while at the show, but it subsided a bit after we left (baby wanted to meet Kim Deal, obviously). I also think the relaxation techniques of hypnobirthing helped a lot once I was in active labour. I never felt like I needed to ask for other forms of pain management. Ok, I didn’t have a completely pain-free orgasmic birth, but it was really manageable.

    I will say that I don’t think hypnobirthing prepared me enough for the pushing stage. They emphasize ‘breathing your baby down’. Which is awesome and probably works for some people, but I needed harder pushing, and I didn’t feel like I knew how to do that.

  10. We’re in hypnobirthing classes right now. Reasons for my choice: I have some experience with hypnosis and mindfulness; I want a non-medicated birth but also want to be flexible to whatever medical needs may arise; and the classes are in doctor’s practice, which is is 5 minutes from my house. I definitely feel more informed and calmer about the whole thing, and I feel that I wouldn’t have gotten around to this much preparation without the structure of a class. Good luck!

  11. I haven’t started it yet, but I’ll be doing a hypnobirthing class. I made the decision after talking to an OB, a midwife, and a friend who is a labor and delivery nurse. They all said that the moms they see who seem the most prepared are the ones who’ve taken hypnobirthing. That sealed it for me! I confess that, beyond that, I didn’t do deep research on the differences between the programs.

  12. I’m not sure you need to choose a technique so much as just have some tools in your toolbox, particularly if you want to forgo the epidural… but even if you don’t, you might not get one right away. In my opinion it is nice to have options because you never really know what you’re going to want or need when the time comes – you may even surprise yourself. I feel that hiring a doula is probably THE most useful thing you can do to prepare for birth, because they know so much and can help you adapt to whatever happens.

    I am doing Hypnobabies with this, my second, baby… I just really thought it sounded appealing. If it doesn’t “work” as a magical painkiller that is fine with me. I tend to be a slightly anxious and tightly wound person so practicing self-hypnosis for the past couple of months has already helped me a lot just to relax, sleep better, etc. They say hypnosis is well suited to people who have busy minds because while your conscious mind is busy fussing over this and that, it leaves your subconscious free to take in the positive messages. 🙂

  13. I’m six months pregnant with my first, and being very DIY-inclined, I’m sort of creating my own birthing technique. I’m drawing on my own history – how I tend to react to stress, to physical pain, to fear, etc. and combining that with techniques that I’m reading about. For example, I practice meditation, so using a mantra won’t feel weird to me. Taking a class, though, would feel super weird because I’m so introverted.

    I think that the most important factor in choosing a technique is to find one that’s in line with who you are, so that following it won’t be a struggle.

  14. I feel strongly that independent childbirth education with an instructor who has no attachment to a particular technique but who believes in normal, physiological birth is the way to go. This will give you the basics. Then, add accessories – hypnobirthing, birthing from within, Bradley, whatever.

    • Yup, that’s exactly what we did. Our instructor is a long-time nurse and did not say a peep in terms of pro or against any particular techniques. Since it was a class held at the hospital where we were set to deliver (as were all the other moms) we also got a tour of the labor and delivery floor, what each delivery room looked like, where everything was, what hospital protocol was, etc. Really good to have all that down before getting there. But she also lead us through the whole birthing process, from the very first signs through the placenta delivery and beyond. It was *very* informative and we got to ask any question we wanted, regardless of nature–she even discussed pooping on the table! It was awesome.

      • I’ve thought about going this route–the hospital class, but I’m doing an in-hospital (hopefully non-medicated) midwife birth and I was concerned that the class would be completely focused on traditional, OB-led, medicated, can’t-get-up, nothing-to-eat-or-drink type birth. I’d love to hear more experiences from folks who took the standard hospital class and what to expect there?

        • FYI, we had a midwife and a doula at our hospital birth. As far as I know the only thing a doctor did was come in the room at the end and put the little hat on Olive. Perhaps you could call the hospital and ask what is covered in their class? Mine merely discussed the various options available at the hospital and there was no preference for any one thing. Our instructor also scoffed at the no eating/drinking thing…her analogy is that you’re basically running a marathon and would you not eat or drink during that time? Of course you would! The only reason they wouldn’t want you to is in case of a C-section it’s better for your stomach to be empty. We also learned the standard practices for that hospital, which was helpful.

          And if your hospital IS more “traditional” it’s *very* good to know that beforehand rather than during labor. You’ll know what to bring, what they plan to do, how to discuss your preferences, etc. The more informed you are the better!

        • We did both a Bradley class, plus the standard hospital class. The hospital class showed us some of the hospital things we could see during our time there (mesh underwear! forceps!), as well as quickly covered the stages of labor, pros/cons of various pain meds, and a handful of relaxation techniques. The thing we appreciated about it was that we could ask questions about hospital policies & procedures (and register our displeasure with their policies on things like no food or non-water drinks during labor. And then plan to sneak in Gatorade ice cubes from home.) We got a little use out of the class, but I’d say it was definitely not necessary.

  15. Researching your options is key as many already have said. There are multiple birthing paradigms and finding the one that matches your personal birth philosophy is important. Bradley’s method and Birthing From Within have worked well for many of my friends and myself. A doula you have rapport with is worth her weight in gold as she can help you navigate the unexpected, support you and your partner and facilitate your birthing philo when you are in “laborland” and not able to advocate for yourself as effectively. Reading a large variety of books and securing a doula might be more effective than classes in determining and enacting your birthing philo. As a disclaimer, I am not affiliated w/ any birthing classes and am not a doula. 🙂

  16. Oh as a side note, many hospital based “birthing classes” are more of an orientation to the hospital and medical complications. They don’t give you a very nuanced or accurate depiction of birth. This is just my personal experience from observing them or the curriculum they use when teaching the pregnant women I work with.

  17. I never took any birthing classes, but I researched like crazy. Also, my doula was awesome when it came to this. She helped to explain the different methods, but really she was more about asking me what I wanted from my birth experience and then we went from there. I think it’s a good idea to look in to many different techniques to see what you feel is more your “style”. However, be prepared to be flexible, you never know what will happen once labor starts. The biggest piece of advice: trust yourself! You’ll be the best judge of what is right for you, don’t feel you have to do things a certain way because that’s what worked for someone else.

  18. Honestly, I just winged it. All the techniques were so confusing. I ended up just going in with the idea that I didn’t want any medication and had a very supportive husband help me through it. The nurses were annoying because they kept asking me if I wanted medication during very painful contractions (they ended up having to induce me after my water broke because it was taking too long and there was meconium in the water, so you know…that didn’t help either).

    Anyway, I have a feeling that whatever you choose is what will work best. Part of it is just having faith that you can get through it.

  19. First figure out what kind of birth you want and then take it from there. My first time around I took Bradley classes and after things didn’t turn out the way I had anticipated in the hospital I ended up forgetting my relaxation techniques. That being said, the Bradley method has great insight to birthing by looking at how all mammals birth and the calmness they have in comparison to how humans have medicalized and made women scared of birth.

    My second birth I did a hypnobabies at home course and had an amazing water birth experience. I managed my contractions and anxiety through self hypnosis and could not have been happier with the technique. I labored at home for 12 hours without a lot of discomfort, which was a lot different than my first birth.

    Overall, just remember that birthing is normal, natural and manageable. You and your baby were meant to do it together and you can do it! 🙂

  20. We JUST dealt with this, and it was an awful decision to make! I did a ton of research and was still really conflicted. My midwife suggested picking an instructor that we liked and was open to different methods over a specific method, but we didn’t know any instructors and there was no way to be able meet them all.

    So, we weighed what is involved in the different techniques and classes. A down side to many people, especially joining the classes later in the game is that the Bradley classes are typically 12 weeks. Hypobirthing and other classes are usually shorter. Since we started early, the class duration wasn’t so much a factor for us. What we did end up weighing was- what was my husband planning on doing during labor and the birth- he had no idea and didn’t feel like he had anything to do. This leaned us more towards Bradley where it is more of a coaching technique instead of a self hypnosis technique like hypnobirthing or hypnobabies. The other thing that helped us finally decide was that even though the thought of hynobirthing sounded wonderful, I had some doubt as to whether I would be able to stay focused myself on the technique when active labor came. So, we signed up for a Bradley class and I’ll be reading a hynobirthing book (and listening to the CDs) to supplement the Bradley technique.

  21. Well, first of all, you don’t HAVE to choose a “technique”. Women birth their own way all the time. 🙂 If it’s just not feeling right to you or feeling overwhelming or stressful when you should be eliminating stress from your life, trust that your body will know what to do when it comes to it and leave it at that.

    I went to a Birthing from Within class because several of my friends recommended it. I didn’t end up using a whole lot from the class while giving birth, but one thing I loved was they had us grip ice cubes (to simulate intense physical sensation) and try a variety of pain coping techniques–deep breathing, making noise, movement, finding a focal point, touch, etc. That gave me a much better idea of what my personal needs might be in labor, as well as a nice variety of things to try. Because honestly, the techniques that worked for me during early labor did not work during transition, and the techniques that worked during transition went out the window when I needed to push. I think having a variety of things to try and being willing to switch it up is pretty important.

  22. I watched birth videos – tons of them! And I watched and watched until I could say, “That looks like the birth experience I want!” It happened to be hypnobirthing. It was calm, quiet, peaceful. The body did its job, and the woman didn’t fight it. The baby was calm (but not too calm), too. Statistically, birth goes faster and easier this way, they say, and I can see why. We looked forward to our class every week because it was our peaceful time together, and we could practice relaxing together (and we were buying a house and moving, so it was the ONLY relaxing time we got!) So we did it, and my experience was EXACTLY what I hoped for.

    I also liked it because even if I hadn’t had the perfect birth – if I ended up going to the hospital, getting drugs, even having a c-section, I could still use everything I learned, and my husband could help me. It doesn’t suddenly become useless when the situation changes, and you choose how much or how little you want to use it.

    I would recommend it to anyone!

  23. When I started doing some research on all of the various methods, none of them totally jived with me. There were pieces here and there that resonated, so we picked what we liked and built a birth plan from there.

    I found the process of creating a birth plan most helpful. It allowed me to visualize/imagine the process and anticipate what I might need under various conditions. We did take a day long child birth education class which was useful more so for my partner. But the best book I read was The Birth Partner – for both of us!

    We had an awesome homebirth of our baby girl nearly a year ago today!

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